Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction, Library Edition

Fact: There are libraries in the world today that have security bats living inside of them. That’s right, bats! Why? Because bats eat book-damaging bugs. During the day, these bats sleep; but at night, they become an army of vengeance upon these pesky insects.  The only downside is the clean-up in the morning (but in my opinion, no upside can make up for that downside). Fact: The oldest library in the world dates from the 7th century BC. It was established in Ninevah (now modern-day Iraq) by Ashurbanipal, King of Assyria (668–c.630 BC), and housed over 30,000 cuneiform tablets.  Not a fact: The oldest librarian in the world dates from 7 to 9 pm on weekends. Fact: Overdue books bring in big bucks.  In 2016, the San Jose Public Library reported collecting $6.8 million in delinquent fees. Apparently, 39% of its members were guilty of not returning their books on

How They Did It

Okay, before we go any farther, we all need to practice our detective voice. Here are three lines from the great movie/book, The Maltese Falcon. Once you can say each one of these lines with the proper snarl, then you are ready to read the rest of the post. We will start off with an easy one. Sam Spade says to Effie, his secretary: “You’re a good man, sister.”  Sam Spade says to the tough guy, Joel Cairo (played by Peter Lorre): “When you’re slapped, you’ll take it and like it.” And last, as the police are carting away the bad guys, the chief detective asks Spade what that black statue of a falcon is and Spade sums it all up with this great line: “The stuff that dreams are made of.” Okay, having now graduated from detective school, we are ready for today’s mystery. We walk into a room,

Mark’s Gospel Is for Failures

I read a story this week about a guy who, when he was quite young, received some life-changing wisdom from his father. His father said, “Knowledge is power,” and then attributed those words to Francis Bacon. But the boy heard his father saying, “Knowledge is power. France is bacon.” For years afterwards, he struggled to figure out what the expression, “France is bacon,” meant and how those two sentences were connected. In high school, he once asked his teacher what this quote meant; and she went on and on for ten minutes explaining how knowledge was power, but stopped short of clarifying how France is bacon. Frustrated with her avoiding his true question, he cut to the chase, threw up his hands, and asked, “France is Bacon?” And she said, “Yes. Francis Bacon.” For the next decade, whenever someone said the famous line, “Knowledge is power,” he would always “finish”

Faster than You Can Cook Asparagus

Apparently, I know more Latin than I think. At least that’s what a website told me (“Mental Floss”). It listed off a bunch of English words and said they all were all Latin loanwords: words like memo, alibi, agenda, veto, alias, versus, etc. (i.e., all very common and very popular “English” words that I know and use often). And yes, “i.e.” and “etc.” are also Latin loanwords (or are they loan abbreviations?). And the following phrases are also all Latin (that’s right, in this post we are broadcasting “all Latin, all the time”): phrases like alma mater ("nourishing mother"), bona fide (“in good faith”), alter ego (“other self”) and vice versa (“position turned”). But not all is bright in Latin land. We also have a very sad Latin expression, barba non facit philosophum ("a beard does not make a philosopher”), which is very upsetting because I really want my beard to make it so! Here’s Point 1: A lot of people feel that

The Difference that Matthew Makes, Part 2

Let me give you some advice. It’s even good advice. First, from Henry David Thoreau: “Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all.” That’s good advice. And now, from Fran Lebowitz: “Think before you speak. Read before you think.” Now, that is better advice! And third, from Saint Thomas Aquinas (the philosopher, not the high school): “Beware of the person of one book.” Now, that is the best advice yet! No wonder they name high schools after him! Ask anyone and they will tell you, it would be so much easier if we only had ONE gospel (“one gospel to rule them all; one gospel to combine them”). Why? Because four gospels give us headaches. Case in point, the cleansing of the temple. In Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus cleanses the temple on the Monday of Holy Week. On Friday of

The Difference that Matthew Makes

There was that old, old commercial for Life cereal. Two boys are staring at this bowl of unknown slop. One pushes it in front of the other. He pushes it back. Neither one wants to try it because they were told it was good for them, and they know that any cereal that is good for you tastes horrible. Finally, one of the kids comes up with a sure-fired test to find out how bad the cereal tastes. They slide the bowl over to Mikey who hates everything but, apparently, will try anything. Mikey digs in. The boys are ready for him to spew it out of his mouth in disgust but, instead, he scoops up a second spoonful! “He likes it! Mikey likes it!” Who knew tasting soggy cereal could be so rewarding! Here’s my confession (as if you didn’t know already): I love this stuff. I love thinking

The Difference that Luke Makes

P.J. O’Rourke once said, “Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.” I have several books that fit this description (and maybe even a few that serve that purpose!). One of my favorite books that I will never read cover-to-cover is called, Synopsis of the Four Gospels. Now, it is a great book, and I am very happy I have it (you can have it, too! Amazon has it for only $113.85; tell them Dane sent you!). Here’s what is so good about it. It divides all the stories found in all four gospels into 367 separate accounts and then puts them in order (from introductions to ascension). Then it places all the parallel accounts next to each other so you can see how each gospel compares to the other three (graphically comparing words, sentence structure and verb tenses). And if

Four Views of Christmas

Kin Hubbard once said, “Next to a circus there ain’t nothing that packs up and tears out faster than the Christmas spirit.”  Well, that’s not good! And so, to stop this loss of spirit, let’s talk about the Christmas story even though it is January, (or at least, use it as a springboard to talk about other things).  Sometime between Christmas and New Year’s, we were talking to good friends who asked a great question: “Why is Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth so different from Matthew’s?” It was a really good question, and it gets to the heart of how the gospels were put together (which is kind of important stuff!). How different are Matthew and Luke’s accounts? Well, let’s look! Here’s what we see when we read through MATTHEW’S ACCOUNT: There’s a genealogy of Jesus (starts with Abraham and ends with Jesus). The angel visits Joseph to answer his

Happy New Eyes to You, Two

Here’s the truth: the world is a dark place, especially when it’s night.  Most years, when I went to visit our teachers in Asia, I stayed in the nearby hotel. It was very convenient, except on the nights when fights broke out in the next room or when parties broke out next door or when toxic fumes filled the building. Other than that, it was great. But then a more convenient option arose. Chris and Debbie had an apartment in the same complex as our teachers, and their tenant had moved out. So, for the two weeks I was there, I moved in! Now later, I was informed that what I was doing was technically “illegal” because all foreigners are “required” to stay in hotels; but as I read the Bible, it is only illegal if there is a verse against it (?). So, I stayed in Chris and Debbie’s

Happy New Eyes!

This year’s Christmas Eve was great. Even though it was outside and in the dark and in the cold, it was a wonderful and meaningful time. It offered joy, worship, community and candles – all the things that make Christmas Eve Christmas Eve. Plus, it will be a Christmas Eve service we will all remember forever. Not only because it was outside in the cold, but primarily because it wasn’t Christmas Eve.  Who celebrates Christmas Eve on the Eve of Christmas Eve? Answer: We did! All that to say, it was a spectacular night. And while several people said it was too cold, don’t believe them. Cold is when you breathe and your mustache instantly freezes or when you can’t feel your finger tips or when you bend your toes and they fall off, none of which happened Christmas Eve Eve. So, it wasn’t nearly too cold to gather for

A Baby Changes Everything

A guy calls the hospital and says, "You gotta send help! My wife's going into labor!" The nurse says, "Calm down. Is this her first child?" He says, "No! This is her husband!" Let’s face it, a baby changes everything and quickly moves us from peace to panic. But you don’t have to believe me. Check out these four quotes. They'll prove it to you. “A perfect example of minority rule is a baby in the house.” -- Milwaukee Journal “I don’t want to sleep like a baby, I want to sleep like my husband.” – Anonymous “Having a new baby is like suddenly getting the world's worst roommate.” -- Anne Lamott “If your baby is beautiful and perfect, never cries or fusses, sleeps on schedule and burps on demand, an angel all the time, you’re the grandma.” -- Theresa Bloomingdale Yes, we all agree, a baby changes everything; but

Oh, Tidings of Sorrow and Joy, Sorrow and Joy

Joy. It’s a Christmas thing. Isaiah predicted its coming. Gabriel announced it to Zechariah. John the Baptizer, while still in the womb, leapt for it. The angels proclaimed it in abundance to the shepherds. And we sing about it . . . a lot. Joy can be found in “Angels We Have Heard on High,” “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen,” “Good Christian Men Rejoice,” “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” “O Holy Night,” “What Child Is This?” “When Shepherds Watched Their Flocks,” “O, Come, All Ye Faithful” and, of course, “Joy to the World.” With all this joy, one would think that the angel would have said to Joseph, “The virgin will give birth to a son, and they will call him 'Imjoyuel' (which means ‘joy with us’).”  Bottom line, there’s a lot of joy in Christmas. And yet, when we read Isaiah’s description of Jesus and his life, we don’t

The Self-Defrosting Freezer — Bah Humbug!

It was a normal Friday night. The Edge youth group was over, and I was locking up the downstairs of the church after one of our depth groups had met there (a windows-open, physically-distant, masks-required depth group with 2-4 students). I went over to make sure the orange closet door was locked, and that was when I noticed that the freezer door seemed to have been left open. Ugh. I figured before I left for the night, I should first throw out any food that was inside.  So, I went to open the door, but it didn’t budge. And yes, that was odd, thanks for noticing.  If at first, you can’t open the door, try, try again. So, I did. Again and again, I pulled and I pulled, but nothing. In a huff, I went looking for a solution and came back with a sturdy pole which, when rightly applied,

An Awful, Amusing and Artificial Christmas

Word meanings change over time. There is a great story that, nearing the end of the construction of the Cathedral of St Paul, the queen was taken on a tour of the nearly-finished cathedral by the chief architect, Sir Christopher Wren.  When the visit was complete, the queen told Wren in no uncertain terms that the new building was amusing, awful, and artificial. I would have been devastated, but remarkably, Wren was quite pleased.  Why? Because in the 1600’s, “amusing” meant “amazing,” “awful” meant “awe-inspiring,” and “artificial” meant “artistic.” See, word meanings change over time. In fact, until the beginning of the 19th century, weddings were still described as “awful ceremonies” (maybe many should still be described that way today!). I wonder if that is what is going on in Luke 1, that the words we understand to mean “good” and “wonderful” meant something else to Mary. When the angel visits Mary

On the Trail of Gratitude and Generosity, Part 2

There’s nothing like a good hike, except when you get lost. One of my favorite memories from when I was a kid was going to Camp Cedar Lake (not really, but lies aren’t lies if they are in a blog).  Camp Cedar Lake was a Christian camp with all the normal camp things—shooting rifles, making cheap crafts, swimming, canoeing (which often turned into swimming) and a hike up a mountain. Thinking about it now, I doubt it was much of a hike or a mountain; but as a 9-year-old, both were epic. Our guide up the mountain was our cabin counselor. Now generally, one would not entrust one’s life to a 17-year old who couldn’t find any better paying summer job than at a church camp, but entrust ourselves we did. And so, up the mountain we went; and before we knew it, we arrived at the top. As advertised,

On the Trail of Gratitude and Generosity

Please forgive me, but I am going a little crazy. There are two trails in Patapsco State Park near our house. Let’s start at the Thru Trail. You turn left, go between the roots of two gigantic fallen trees, go left at the intersection, take the ridge path overseeing the river, walk over this rocky area, wander a bit in the woods and then turn left at the marked tree. Easy. I’ve done it many, many times. Now, let’s do it backwards. Start off at the same marked tree, follow the trail, take the rock steps (which, yes, is different from the rocky area), go up the hill to the right, zig zag a bit, get a little lost, turn right, and bingo, bango you’re walking between the two huge roots.  Same starting points. Same ending points. But for the life of me, I don’t know where they connect. Somehow,

METAPHORS: Part 6–Quiz Time

Congratulations! You have completed the blog course, Four Metaphors for Evangelism. You have read every word, unpacked every parable and thought about every concept. Well done. There’s just one more thing to do. You need to take the final exam.  Now, there is nothing I like more than giving an exam. Sue Barker said, “Everyone loves sport, and everyone loves a quiz.” Now, I don’t know Ms. Barker, but I know she is right. Even Jo, who at first was really anxious (and maybe even a bit miffed) about being quizzed by me about topics she knew nothing about and cared about even less, now has a totally different opinion. But why wait for her to tell you how she feels. Below are four answers. Which one best describes her response to being quizzed today? Is it . . . She is annoyed at constantly being exposed as ignorant

METAPHORS: Part 5–Magnets

A true story (or so they say).  I put it in the form of a verse (which probably made the story even worse): There once was a songster with writer’s block Who had no more clever ideas left in stock. And so, in search of a creative spark, Wrote down some fun words -- almost as a lark. He cut them up and put them on a table And arranged them into verse as he was able. Hoping this act would cure his disease, It ended badly, when he had a big sneeze. What could possibly hold all these words down, But still allow him to move them all around? The answer was clear and simple to do, Attach the words to magnets with a dab of glue! He then placed them all on his refrigerator door. Everything was ready; he was free to explore! That’s why this guy gave

METAPHORS: Part 4–Disrupters

I love walks. I call them hikes (it sounds more daring); but if push came to shove, I would say a hike is just a walk in the woods. I also love Søren Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard said, “Above all, do not lose your desire to walk. Every day I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from every illness. If one just keeps on walking, everything will be all right.”  Almost every day, our dog Ragna and I go hiking in Patapsco State Park; and when I am on a hike, life cannot be much better. But imagine walking down the sidewalk. It’s a nice day and you have little on your mind except that you want to enjoy life by taking a leisurely stroll. Suddenly, out of nowhere, someone or something kicks you in the seat of your pants. You immediately turn around to see who dared

METAPHORS: Part 3–Spiritual Midwives

If I had to choose, give me Jimmy Stewart in Call Northside 777, or even Bob Hope in Call Me Bwana or the classic, They Call Me Mr. Tibbs with Sidney Poitier. I would also be happy with A Fish Called Wanda or the great Swedish movie (based on the book), A Man Called Ove. And if push came to shove, I would also agree to An Inspector Calls or The Call of the Wild or Better Call Saul or even Total Recall. I would agree to any of these, but please don’t make me watch Call the Midwife. Now Jo really enjoys Call the Midwife, and I am sure there will be people reading this who will side with Jo on this one (so what else is new?); but really, who wants to watch a group of overworked and overwrought nuns running around rescuing desperate women and delivering babies

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